The Key User-Centered Design (UCD) Principles For Webmasters

Talking about a User-Centered Design (UCD), in reference to the TechTarget team of experts, it’s critical to note that a great User Experience (UX) Design is often tied to the User Interface (UI) Design as well. But, on the contrary, they’re not the same thing in software design. Our experts offer their take on how to use both to make better apps, webs, or software.

While there are differences in UX and UI design, one must put equal effort into each to create intuitive, easy-to-use, and aesthetically appealing applications. UX without UI would be a house that has the right layout and number of rooms but is horribly outdated or run-down. In essence, UI without UX would just be a beautiful modern, open loft studio, yes!

But, it would not meet the needs of a large family. When it stops being neither UX design nor UI design, when all elements come together and the right mix of both is achieved, then the perfect home can be realized. To arrive at a great User-Centered Design (UCD), the first step in choosing the right app interface design is to understand the options available to developers.

As well as taking a dive much deeper into some of the topmost popular design concepts and approaches. No matter how great you are at coding, an app will be of little value to the business if it lacks an effective interface. It’s critical for developers to understand the fundamentals of app interface design — choose an interface strategy tailored to end users’ priorities.

What A User-Centered Design (UCD) Is All About

To enumerate, User-Centered Design (UCD) is an iterative design process in which designers focus on the users and their needs in each phase of the design process. In UCD, design teams involve users throughout the design process via a variety of research and design techniques, to create highly usable and accessible products for them.

In user-centered design, designers use a mixture of investigative methods and tools (e.g., surveys and interviews) and generative ones (e.g., brainstorming) to develop an understanding of user needs. The term was coined in the 1970s. Later, cognitive science and usability engineering expert Don Norman adopted the term in his extensive work.

More so, on improving what people experience in their use of items. And the term rose in prominence thanks to works such as User Centered System Design: New Perspectives on Human-Computer Interaction (which Norman co-authored with Stephen W. Draper) and Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things (originally titled The Psychology of Everyday Things).

Resource Reference: Web Design Tips Plus Tricks That Every Designer Should Follow

Generally, each iteration of the UCD approach involves four distinct phases. First, as designers working in teams, we try to understand the context in which users may use a system. Then, we identify and specify the users’ requirements. A design phase follows, in which the design team develops solutions. The team then proceeds to an evaluation phase.

Herein, you assess the outcomes of the evaluation against the users’ context and requirements, to check how well a design is performing. More specifically, you see how close it is to a level that matches the users’ specific context and satisfies all of their relevant needs. From here, your team makes further iterations of these four phases.

And then, you continue until the evaluation results are satisfactory. So, in other words, a user-centered design is an iterative process that focuses on an understanding of the users and their context in all stages of design and development. Generally, in terms of unveiling the key UCD principles, it considers the whole user experience and interaction journey.

User-Centered Design (UCD) For Great Experience And Interaction

Talking about User-Centered Design (UCD), you base your projects upon an explicit understanding of the users, tasks, and environments. The aim of the process is to capture and address the whole user experience. Therefore, your design team should include professionals from across multiple disciplines (ethnographers, psychologists & software/hardware engineers).

As well as domain experts, stakeholders, and the users themselves. Experts may carry out evaluations of the produced designs, using design guidelines and criteria. However, you should bear two crucial points in mind. First, to span the entire user experience, you must involve the users for evaluation. Second, you’ll need to ensure long-term monitoring of use.

User-Centered Design (UCD) Team For Great Experience And Interaction

When your professional UCD team brings the users into every stage of the design process, you invest your effort and other resources into a powerful way of finding out what works well, what doesn’t, and why. Your users are an early-warning system you can use to course-correct and fine-tune your design.

They can expose many aspects — positive and negative — your team may have overlooked such vital areas as usability and accessibility. That’s why it’s so important to understand how powerful the benefits of a user-centered design approach are. Being human-centered is an additional cost to any project, so businesses will rightly ask many questions.

For instance, such as whether taking so much time to talk to people, producing prototype designs, and so on is a worthwhile course. Fundamentally, the answer to this is a solid ‘yes’. But, how does UCD pay off in business terms?

The proven ways in which a user-centered design pays off for web-based businesses:
  1. With close user involvement, products are more likely to meet users’ expectations and requirements. This leads to increased sales and lower costs incurred by customer services.
  2. Systems designers tailor products for people in specific contexts and with specific tasks, thereby reducing the chances of situations with a high risk of human error arising. UCD leads to safer products.
  3. Putting designers in close contact with users means a deeper sense of empathy emerges. This is essential in creating ethical designs that respect privacy and the quality of life.
  4. By focusing on all users of a product, designers can recognize the diversity of cultures and human values through UCD — a step in the right direction towards creating sustainable businesses.

Be that as it may, has created a list of UX design techniques that you can use in your next project development process. Not to mention, many of them will help you put the user center stage in your project. Perse, you can mix and match all these proven techniques to create a UX process best suited to the project at hand.

The Basic UX Plus UI Design Facets That Matters

To understand their facets, let’s relate the process of designing software to building a house. When building, the architect helps define the size and shape of the spaces, which determines the holistic way one will experience the house. Once space, location, and overall shape decisions have been made, the interior designer works on realizing the homeowner’s aesthetic.

Particularly, by making small tweaks to the shape, while determining the look and feel of each room. The architect is defining the user experience of the house, the interior designer is creating the user interface for each room and the homeowner represents the needs and desires of users. Both the architect and interior designer are responsible in this case.

Resource Reference: Motion UI Design | Why Its The Digital Content Futuristic Trend

Whilst, ensuring the house meets the needs and expectations of the homeowner. But also, getting early input from the contractor can ensure that the home is both buildable and within the budget. It shouldn’t be UX vs. UI design; we should strive to have a collaborative effort among UX, UI, and developers to create solutions that support both user and business needs.

The primary aspects of user experience are summed up by UX thought leader Peter Morville and we can borrow a few ideas. His honeycomb diagram and seven facets describe how users judge your software on whether it is useful, usable, desirable, findable, accessible, credible, and valuable. With that in mind, below are the most common basic facets in UCD terms…

1. Usefulness

For software to be useful, it needs to serve a practical purpose that addresses needs and goals. For example, having aspirin will be very useful to someone with a headache but less useful to someone with a wound. There is this use cases list that has all the steps that define the interactions between a user and a system.

Especially, in terms of use cases as a requirement for software development, which is often constructed in UML, with defined actors and roles. Likewise, consider having a look at this article on Use Case Examples & 13 Killer Tips written by Darren Levy — for Business Analysts and Software Engineers, as a good introduction to creating usefulness.

2. Usability

Basically, usability is an important aspect, but it is very ambiguous and, alone, is not sufficient to have a great experience. Iterating between design and testing allows one to understand when the pinnacle of usability has been reached. URUT is similar to in-person usability testing however participants complete tasks in their own environment without a facilitator present.

The tasks are pre-determined and are presented to the participant via an online testing platform. Bear in mind, Chris Gray’s article on how to run an unmoderated remote usability test outlines the process and includes an animated video guide.

3. Desirability

In essence, this includes things like performing an audit/review of competing websites and apps; conducting user testing of competing websites; writing a report that summarises the competitive landscape, and the like. The aesthetic design creates emotion for a product. Positive emotion makes the product more desirable — why companies invest highly in branding.

Downloading, signing up for, purchasing, and using products that compete with yours is only part of the process. Furthermore, conducting user testing sessions on these products will also yield valuable insights. That said, you can check out the Inc. article on how to conduct competitive research for more resourceful information and basic tips.

4. Findability

Users will abandon a product if they cannot quickly find what they are looking for or become extremely frustrated if they keep looking. The site and its content need to be easily found, have intuitive navigation, and provide relevant results when searching. This also includes the basic principles like analyzing website or mobile usage data.

As well as making subsequent recommendations. All analytics packages provide key reports, such as most frequently visited pages, visitor demographics, bounce rate, and more. In terms of interpreting web analytics, in meantime, this article is a good place to start. What’s more, Brian Clifton’s book on the topic also comes recommended.

5. Accessibility

Forget UX vs. UI design for a moment, and remember that one in seven people worldwide require inclusive design and all users benefit. Addressing color contrast increases readability for everyone. Whilst, closed captioning allows people with hearing disabilities to watch videos easily and conveniently.

Including those who are in an environment where they cannot play audio, and coding best practices allow screen readers to function effectively. Not forgetting, accessibility is also a very critical principle towards great User Experience (UX) Design with quality interaction in mind as well.

6. Credibility

In this case, we can think of principles such as conversations with the key contacts in the client organization funding, selling, or driving the product. Users must trust and believe the content provided in order to deliver great UX vs. UI design. Steve Baty’s article; conducting successful interviews with project stakeholders is worth a read as it contains lots of tips.

As well as basic tips that are gleaned from the user experience line. So that you can gather more information on how to increase your credibility chances. Interviewing users in the location they use the website/app is yet another key principle.

In particular, so that you can understand their tasks and challenges. On that note, you can read this Contextual Enquiry – A Primer By Gerry Gaffney for a rough guide to planning for, scheduling, and conducting a contextual inquiry.

7. Evaluability

If the other facets are achieved, the business value of the software should be easily addressed — with customers, revenue, retention, satisfaction, or one of many other goals in mind. After all, if the potential target user sees value, then the business will also realize its main goals. There’re many other facets like reviewing and cataloging a client’s existing repository of content.

As well as asking users to record their experiences and thoughts about a product or task in a journal over a set period of time. Donna Spencer’s article for beginners, which is complete with an animated video, is a very good place to start.

In addition, she also has a template for creating a content inventory that’s available for download. Moreover, conducting a diary study is really as simple as providing users with a diary, a timeframe, and guides about what/what not to record.

8. Technicality

In terms of technicality, user-centered design (UCD) interviews are a key activity for understanding the tasks and motivations of the user group for whom you are designing. Interviews may be formally scheduled, or just informal chats (for instance, in a suitable location where your target demographic are present). However, interviewing someone takes practice.

Eventually, that’s why you’ll need to read how to improve your interview skills for tips on getting better. Also, be sure to check out Steve Krug’s Short Book – Rocket Surgery Made Easy for a comprehensive guide on how to plan for a schedule, and conduct all the necessary usability/technicality tests.

9. Functionality

Another facet that matters is evaluating a website/application platform’s basic end-user functionality. And then, documenting usability flaws and other areas for improvement. In most cases, a good method for determining how usable a website or application is, usually, entails working through a work plan checklist.

Such as the one from, which relies upon the practitioner being sufficiently experienced to judge whether something is usable or not. Suffice it to say, you can even try to sit your loyal users in front of your website or application.

Specifically, so that they can offer their input — ask them to perform tasks, and think out loud while doing so. With that in mind, you can read more about how to run a user testing session for more details —  that’s even if you’re a complete novice.

10. Simplicity

Overall, how easy is it for you to invite input from users, stakeholders, and other project members? Well, the best facet herein is to make sure that you provide all participants with some paper and a pen, and have them complete exercises.

Such as drawing wireframes or writing on printouts of screens that they like or don’t like. Having said that, you can read this Facilitating Collaborative Design Workshops Article that’s written by Jason Furnell to gather more useful information.

What A User Experience (UX) Approach In Design Terms Entail

In general, User experience (UX) refers to any interaction a user has with a product or service. Practically, it considers each and every element that shapes this experience, how it makes the user feel, and how easy it is to accomplish their desired tasks. Anything from how a physical product feels in your hand, to how straightforward the checkout process is.

Particularly, when buying something that best interests them online. In this case, we can clearly say that the main goal of UX design is to create easy, efficient, relevant, and all-around pleasant experiences for the user. People depend on mobile devices every day for communications, eCommerce, content consumption, work, banking, directions, etc.

And most increasingly, as their sole computing device. What’s more, they are using a variety of devices such as mobile phones, smartwatches, tablets, phablets, wearables, and hybrid laptops. Technically, a great user experience (UX) design encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with a web business company, its services, and its products.

Learn More: User Interface (UI) Design | Best Practices For Futuristic Websites & Applications

Markedly, it’s so important to distinguish the totality of user experience design from the user interface design, even though the UI is obviously an extremely important part of the design. Whilst, bearing in mind, the User Interface (UI) is the point of human-computer interaction and communication in a device.

This can include display screens, keyboards, a mouse, and the appearance of a desktop. It’s also the way through which a user interacts with an application or a website. Websites such as Airbnb, Dropbox, and Virgin America display strong user interface designs. Ultimately, these sites have created pleasant, easily operable, User-Centered Designs (UCD) in their projects.

Ultimately, with key features that focus on the target user and their overall unique needs. At all costs, a great User-Centered Design (UCD) is an iterative design process in which designers focus on the users and their needs in each design phase. Coupled with a few User-Centered Design (UCD) principles here and there, you’ll fulfill all your end-user design demands.

The Topmost Key User-Centered Design (UCD) Principles To Consider

To begin with, knowing what is important to your users and which type of interface makes the most sense for your website or application. Perse, you can select an interface design approach that provides the best balance between the various design principles. You may also think of a custom XML sitemap as well — a complete list of all pages available on a website.

Creating a sitemap is a useful task at the beginning of the design process, as it can be used to shape which screens to wireframe. Similarly, you can also think about how your User Experience Map, or rather, a Customer Journey Map would be. Simply put, this is an extended version of a mental model, rather than looking at one moment in time for a single user.

Technically, an experience map is a wholesome visual representation of your user’s interactions with your organization when zoomed right out. So, the big question here is this: What is a customer journey map? Well, take a look at this:

A Video Tutorial Explainer: The Simple Steps Guide To Create A Customer Journey Map

Inspired by user research, no two journey maps are alike, and regardless of the format, they allow organizations to consider interactions from their customers’ points of view. Particularly, instead of taking an inside-out approach. In other words, UX (User Experience) Research is the systematic study of target users and their requirements.

More so, to add realistic contexts and insights to design processes. It can adopt various methods to uncover problems and design opportunities. Definitely, doing so will reveal valuable information which can be fed into the design process. Most apps use interface design types like Graphical User Interface (GUI), Command Line Interface (CLI) & Menu-Driven UI.

But, none is inherently better than the others. Yet, each excels at meeting certain app interface design principles. The interface design approach you choose, then, should reflect the design principles most important to your users. Although in a perfect world, you would be able to cater to all principles equally, in the real world you often need to make compromises.

That said, let’s now dive deeper into what user-based content developers and design webmasters need to know about app interface design at large, including some fundamental principles. As well as the most common approaches to great User-Centered Design (UCD) and quality interface development. So that you can utilize some of them in your next project.

1. Simple Elements Design + Accessible Efficient Interface

For virtually all interface types, apps, and users, there are several principles that lay the foundation for effective interface design. An interface should be simple. In practice, this means that the cognitive effort required from end users to complete a task should be kept to a minimum. However, this is easier said than done — simplicity is subjective here as well.

Something that is obvious to some users may confuse others. As a developer, your task is to determine what your target users consider to be simple and then implement an interface that delivers accordingly. Efficiency goes hand in hand with simplicity. App interfaces should be efficient enough that users can complete tasks in as few steps as possible.

To have an efficient interface also means avoiding redundant elements in the design. For instance, you don’t want users to have to click two buttons in a row just to move to the next page or force them to enter information more than once. To the best of the developer’s ability, every interface should be directly accessible to every user if we may add.

This requires choosing a layout, font colors, and size, among other stylistic elements, that make the interface easy to view and navigate for as many people as possible. Where many developers go astray, when it comes to accessibility, is when they assume users who can’t easily work with the interface will know accessibility tools, such as screen readers.

While, in reality, they may not know that they are readily available and, in the long run, they will equally not understand how to deploy them. Think of accessibility tools as a backup, rather than a core part of the user experience you deliver. The best interface is one that every user can navigate without the need for accessibility add-ons from one point to the other.

2. Consistent Performance + Seamless Integration

An app interface should also offer a consistent experience — a pretty objective principle. Consistency, in the app design context, means that the interface structure and style are the same across the entire app. As a developer, you don’t want to build an interface that relies heavily on menus in one part of the app and an interface driven by forms in the other.

Regardless of the specific application features or components users access, the interface experience should be consistent. When users engage with the app interface in some way, they should receive feedback. For example, this could mean the button they click changes color or it could come in the form of a pop-up box that says: “Processing. Please wait.”

Without feedback, developers risk leaving users unsure about whether their input was accepted. Did they really click the button? Is the app buggy and not processing the request? Avoid this by providing an instant response. Feedback should remain available until processes are complete.

Don’t leave the user in the dark by displaying a blank screen. Or rather, don’t leave them hanging by freezing on the previous screen. If your app is going to take time to process a request, keep a status bar open so users can track progress.

3. AMP-Ready, Responsive + Menu-Driven Interface

A menu-driven interface uses menus to enable users to navigate application functionality. An ATM screen is a common example of a menu-driven interface. The main screen shows different menus, like DepositsWithdrawals, and Information.

From there, users click the menu that corresponds to what they want to do. Menu-driven displays are great at providing a simple and accessible interface. By enabling users to select menus rather than forcing them to navigate long forms, menu-driven interfaces make it easy to minimize the amount of information on the screen at any given time.

The major downside of a menu-driven interface is that it is not always the most efficient approach to interface design. Users may need to navigate through multiple menus before they can access the functionality they need. An ATM interface could be more efficient if it lets users walk up and tell the app everything it needs to know in a single step.

Markedly, by saying something like, “I’d like to deposit a check into my savings account.” But, that would not be an example of menu-driven design — it would be a natural language interface.

4. Interactive Widgets + Natural Language Interface

A natural language interface lets users interact with the app using human language. For example, a modern search engine lets users enter simple, plain-language queries like “What’s the capital of Kenya?” Most Search Engines don’t require queries to include Boolean Operators or special configuration data; they interpret input by processing natural language directly.

Because of a natural language interface’s ability to accept input in whichever ways users choose to enter it, this approach — when implemented well — delivers the simplest, most consistent, and most efficient user experience. Natural language design makes it easy to tailor a single interface to different users’ needs.

Obviously, because individuals engage with the app using whichever words make sense to them. When paired with tools that can translate speech to text, a natural language approach enables users to input information using speech rather than a keyboard. For mobile applications, this is a critical advantage, because users can interact with your app on the go.

Resource Reference: UserWay Accessibility Widget | Basic Installation & Activation Steps

The major challenge in natural language design is that interpreting natural language queries requires sophisticated algorithms. And, when implemented poorly, it can deliver results that don’t match the request. Because of this limitation, this design makes the most sense when an app focuses on a specific domain or offers a limited range of functionality.

In that case, it’s easier to define the scope of possible queries that a user might enter and write algorithms that can interpret them effectively. For example, consider a simple digital thermostat app that lets users set the temperature by talking into their phones. This would be a good candidate for natural language design.

Simply because there aren’t many words that the interface would need to interpret to determine user intent. A banking app that offers a range of functionality — from checking balances to transferring money to paying bills — might be more difficult to run through a natural language interface.

5. Simple CTA Buttons + Form-Based interface

In a form-based interface, users enter data into a form to tell the application what to do. In this context, a form could be a literal form where users enter text or an interface where users configure options with drop-down menus and checkboxes. If you’re a developer, you’re likely accustomed to working with form-based interfaces in software tools.

For instance, a network scanner might use a form-based approach to collect data it needs to start a network scan in the way you want. The main advantage of a form-based design is that it’s easy for users to send a lot of information to the app from a single interface. This makes it especially useful for apps that need to collect a lot of information to complete a user’s request.

For less complex tools, form-based design is often overkill. Users may feel overwhelmed when asked to fill out more than a half-dozen or so options at once or if they are unsure which values to enter. Plus, it’s often hard to make form-based interfaces look elegant and to fit all the info on a single screen in a way that keeps it easy to read for users with accessibility needs.

Forms are a great option when efficiency is your highest priority and when you are building an application that is truly complex from the user’s perspective. Simpler applications often work better with a different design approach. One way to increase efficiency is by utilizing the best practices for a great Call To Action (CTA) Design to increase the engagement rate.

Summary Notes:

In reality, despite best intentions and mountains of data, many organizations continue to offer lackluster user-centered experiences for their target customers. Of course, yes, many organizations function with an internal focus, and that becomes apparent when customers interact with their various products, services, and employees.

It’s, important to realize, that every interaction a customer has with an organization has an effect on satisfaction, loyalty, and the bottom line. Plotting out a customer’s emotional landscape by way of a User Experience Map, or rather, a Customer Journey Map, along their path sheds ­­­­light on key opportunities for deepening those relationships.

Realistically, they are toolkits that can help web-based businesses and organizations evolve from a transactional approach to one that focuses on long-term relationships with customers built on respect, consistency, and trust. Whichever UX Research Method you choose, you need to consider the pros and cons of the different techniques.

Other More Related Resource References:
  1. #10 Dark UI Background Design Best Practices For Webmasters
  2. How To Design Ad Graphics | A Step-By-Step Beginners Guide
  3. Custom Post Type Design | Turn Your Weblog UI Into Powerful CMS
  4. The Topmost 15 Free Content Design Tools You Should Be Using
  5. Web Development Technology Trends | Old/New Plus Upcoming

For example, card sorting is cheap and easy, but you may find it time-consuming when it comes to analysis. Also, it might not give you in-depth contextual meaning. Another constraint is your available resources, which will dictate when, how much, and which type of UX research you can do. So, decide carefully on the most relevant method/s for your research.

Moreover, involve stakeholders from your organization early on. They can reveal valuable UX insights and help keep your research in line with business goals. Remember, a design team values UX research as a way to validate its assumptions about users in the field, slash the cost of the best deliverables and keep products in high demand — ahead of competitors.

That’s it! Everything that you needed to know about what a User-Centered Design (UCD) entails, plus the key principles to get you started. All in all, if you’ll need more support, of if you think that there is something else that we can add, please Get In Touch and let us know. Otherwise, you are also welcome to share your additional inputs in our comments section.

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  1. You’re so awesome! I don’t believe I have read a single thing like that before. So great to find someone with some original thoughts on this topic. Really.. thank you for starting this up. This website is something that is needed on the internet, someone with a little originality!

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